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The Cascine Park is the largest urban park in Europe and it's also the largest public park in the city (about 160 hectares). Its green area runs along the Arno from the "Ponte della Vittoria" Bridge to the "Ponte all'Indiano" bridge with a total length of approximately 3.5 kilometers.

ciclopistaThe park itself can be defined as a green island in the middle of the city, as it is surrounded by the Arno River, from the Mugnone stream and by an artificial canal, called the Fosso Macinante that previously had been used to activate various mills and to divert the waters of the river Arno.

Initially the Cascine identified a much wider area than the present, that included the Cascine of Petriolo, Brozzi and San Donnino. Purchased in 1531 as an area reserved for hunting by the Medici family, soon it became an estate, closed to public enjoyment, where it was forbidden to hunt, to gather firewood and to fish in the rivers that bordered the estate itself. Only with the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo D'Asburgo Lorena, the Cascine became part of a project for the enhancement of farm features and the reconstruction of the environmental degradation that had been reached in the Florentine countryside.

The initially intended project was to build a functional farm, that at the same time would have to represent various architectural criteria. This duty was entrusted to Giuseppe Manetti, an architect, formed at the expenses of the Grand Duke himself, through a high-level education course in Rome. Despite the differences between the two on the register that the architectural works were to keep, the project finally came to an end with the inauguration of the Park in the month of July 1791, where, with three days of festivities, it was finally opened to the public.

The park of the Cascine comprehends about 20,000 trees belonging to 60 different species, besides a wide range of birds, thus including a very varied wildlife. The main building consists of the royal house or Villa Granducale, a neoclassical structure designed by Manetti in 1765; built in the heart of the park, it was also the central building of the Cascine farm. Today it houses the headquarters of the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Florence. In front of the royal house we can find the Piazzale delle Cascine, and at the center of the Square, also the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, originally designed by Emilio Zocchi in 1890 to be located in Republic Square, in the centre of the city. The monument was removed and placed in the current arrangement in 1932.

Moving towards the center of Florence you can find the Pavoniere, transformed into a public swimming pool in the sixties, but originally they were pretty small temples used as aviaries. Continuing in the same direction you may notice the Pyramid, an ice-collecting chamber, constructed in the shape of a pyramid. In this structure were stored the cheeses produced in the Gran Ducal farm, and the ice collected durign the winter season was gradually used for the needs of the farm itself.

Besides the monuments the Cascine Park also offers some big fields where you can relax. The two most important fields are the Prato della Tinaia and the Prato del Quercione, located respectively to the right and to the left of the main square. Among the trees in the park, going north, there is also the amphitheater of the Cascine, which was built in the seventies and that it's used today for musical and theatrical performances. Finally it is important to indicate the presence of two large racetracks, that of Mulina and Visarno.

Today the park is a gathering and meeting place for many Florentine citizens, and is frequented assiduously by running enthusiasts and cyclists, but also offers many facilities to enjoy a variety of sports: basketball, volleyball, golf, horse riding, tennis, football, soccer, swimming, archery, fishing, clay shooting and rollerblading.

Recently the municipality of Florence wanted to re-evaluate the potential of the park through the establishment of the Visitors' Centre, a welcome and orientation point, enhanced by a series of touch screens, with information on monuments, wildlife, cultural events and sports activities in the park.

It is located in the Piazzale delle Cascine. Please consider that the Visitors' Centre is temporarely closed.  

Published: 30/10/2017

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